Tag Archives: Laughter

Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter

  1. Part of the problem in obtaining proof that laughter promotes health or prolongs life is that it is sometimes viewed as being synonymous with humor and happiness. Laughter is not the same as humor or happiness.

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Laughter is the physical and physiological response to humor that frequently results in a feeling of happiness.

 

The only link between all of these is that happy people and those with a good sense of humor are more apt to laugh at something that is funny than their crabby counterparts.

A prior article, titled Why Do Happy People and Optimists Live Longer?, reviewed the evidence that validates this view and discussed possible explanations for such relationships. Since then, this belief has been bolstered by other reports that also shed light on some mechanisms of action that may be responsible.

In one study of 2,500 senior citizens that were followed for six years, those who scored high on a happiness quiz had much fewer strokes than those at the bottom of the scale.

In another study of more than 200 middle-aged healthy London civil service employees, those who reported feeling happy almost every day, whether while at work or on weekends, were significantly healthier and had lower heart rates than others who were not as consistently jolly and gleeful.

Researchers asked participants to rate their happiness at 33 times during work or leisure days during which they also monitored heart rate and blood pressure.

Saliva samples were collected eight times a day to determine concentrations of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that increases risk for heart disease and diabetes.

In addition, all were subjected to a mental stress test, following which they were asked to rate their happiness level on a scale of 1 to 5 and blood samples were obtained to measure fibrinogen, a blood clotting factor and index of inflammation associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.

After adjusting for age, smoking, weight and other possible influences, it was found that people in the top fifth for daily happiness scores had cortisol levels 32 percent lower than those in the bottom quintile. Happiness was also linked to a lower average heart rate in men. While the majority showed some rise in fibrinogen following the mental stress test, this was far greater for the least happy group compared to those at the other end of the scale.

Surprisingly, there was no evidence of any relationship between happiness levels and age, sex, marital status or socioeconomic status. The happiest people reported feeling that way whether working or during leisure time but those who were least happy tended to report this more while they were working.

Low-Rung Employees, High Mortality Rates

These subjects were part of the large ongoing Whitehall II study designed to determine the causes and health effects of job stress in British civil service workers. The original Whitehall study that started in 1967 showed that males in the lowest clerical jobs had the highest overall mortality rate and heart disease death rate whereas top administrators had the least; there was a consistent inverse correlation between mortality and grade of employment for those in between.

The second, Whitehall II, began in 1985, and was designed to confirm and explore the reasons for this disparity. In one phase, investigators interviewed over 2,000 male civil servants aged 45-68 who had completed questionnaires detailing their medical history, job title and responsibilities, mental health, diet, smoking, alcohol use and physical exercise habits.

Various risk factors for coronary disease were measured including heart rate variability (HRV), which reflects the heart‘s ability to adapt to changing situations such as increased physical activity and emotional distress. As emphasized previously, low HRV, a strong predictor of sudden death and coronary events, may be the most accurate way to assess the severity of job stress.

Researchers very recently reported that a diminished HRV was more common in workers at the bottom of the corporate ladder. However, it was also associated with job stress due to a sense of little job control that was independent of civil service employment grade. One might assume that frustrated workers with little job control would be less happy than others.

HeartMath studies have also confirmed that feelings of frustration lower HRV while those of happiness and satisfaction have the opposite effect. In addition, a prior Whitehall II report on male workers showing a link between low HRV and high job stress levels may help explain why both, as well as depression, can contribute to coronary disease.

Low HRV was associated with an increase in cortisol, fibrinogen and other chemicals believed to cause insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension and other manifestations of metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This suggests that it is not that healthy people are happy but rather that they promote their health by being happy and thus have a higher HRV

Does Laughter Really Help?

While happiness may be associated with better health or longevity, is there any proof that laughter per se provides similar benefits?

Japanese researchers suggested it might help patients with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of this disease. They showed that there was a significantly smaller spike in blood sugar after a meal when diabetics watched a popular comedy show compared to listening to a boring lecture.

In another study of patients allergic to dust mites and other common irritants, skin lesions shrank after watching Charlie Chaplin‘s antics in Modern Times, whereas a video containing weather information had no effect. There is abundant evidence that laughter can relieve pain, as Norman Cousins had claimed.

A five-year study that began in 2000 called Rx Laughter at UCLA‘s Jonsson Cancer Centre was designed to determine if laughter could lessen the pain and improve immune system function in children suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases.

It started with the help of a $75,000 grant from cable TV network Comedy Central by working with hundreds of children to determine what makes them laugh.

One of the methods used was to ask them to hold their arms in cold water as long as they could for up to three minutes. It was found that kids watching funny videos during the experiment reported significantly less pain and could also keep their arms in the cold water longer than controls not viewing the videos.

Other benefits of laughing reported by this and other groups here and abroad include:

•Relaxation and reduction in muscle tension.
•Lowered production of stress hormones.
•Improved immune system function.
•Reduction in blood pressure.
•Clearing the lungs by dislodging mucous plugs.
•Increasing the production of salivary immunoglobulin A, which defends against infectious organisms that enter through the respiratory tract.
•Aerobic effects that increased the body‘s ability to utilize oxygen.
•A rapid ability to disregard aches and pains or to perceive them as less severe.

SourceArticle written by : Paul J. Rosch, M.D.  President, The American Institute of Stress

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Laughter, the best medicine

Laughter by David Shankbone

Image via Wikipedia

If Dr Madan Kataria has his way, all IT and BPO offices in Bangalore(INDIA)will have a laugh room soon. “Instead of taking coffee and cigarette breaks, the employees will take a laughter break. It gives an equally good high, says Kataria, who runs a School for Laughter Yoga in Mumbai. (India)

Kataria is not joking. Last month, he conducted research with 30 employees in two Bangalore-based IT firms to determine the effects of laughter therapy on people suffering from work stress. We measured the stress levels of the employees before and after a laughter yoga session, says Kataria. The researchers found that stress levels reduced significantly after an hour of laughs and yogic exercise.

Kataria is still tabulating the findings of the research. Once that is done, he plans to float a proposal to start laughter yoga sessions in software firms — known for erratic hours and work stress.

Kataria believes a good guffaw a day keeps the doctor away. Laughter is a natural cure for many ailments like asthma, gastric ulcers and certain sexual disorders, he says. It helps asthmatics because laughter improves lung capacity and oxygen levels in the blood, explains Kataria. If you laugh uninhibitedly, it clears all pent-up negative emotions and helps keep the mind clear, boosting the immune system and relaxing the body, adds the laughter yoga proponent.

At a time when medical drugs and self-help literature rule, Bangalore boasts of 160 laughter clubs ” the highest in any Indian city, according to B.K. Satyanarayana, founder, Bangalore Laughter Clubs. As work related stress is on the rise in Bangalore, more and more people are heading to laughter clubs. People are realising the benefits of a simple hearty laugh, says Satyanarayana. He adds that on an average, each club has over 50 members.

Daylight is yet to break as people start streaming into an open area near Ulsoor Lake, in the heart of Bangalore. The mostly middle-aged members of the local laughter club start the session at 6 am sharp. It takes off with a prayer which is followed by a Namaste laughter — that is, laughing with folded hands.

The one-hour session is a mix of yoga and laughs. Each yogic exercise – which includes pranayam, kapalabhati and bhastrika — is followed by stimulated laughter, each of which have names like ‘one meter laughter’, ‘forgiveness laughter, ˜break dance laughter and the ˜AK-47-without-a-bullet laughter.

L.G. Vishwanath Shetty, who anchors two clubs in R.T. Nagar, Bangalore, says his club members have mastered 40 ways of laughing. “One meter laughter is when you laugh at a stretch. Forgiveness laughter is when you hold your ear lobes and laugh looking at someone, as if to say that you have forgiven and forgotten,” explains Shetty.

Newcomers to the club admit it is not easy to laugh for no reason. Madhav Swamy, who recently enrolled at a laughter yoga club, says he initially felt odd when he was asked to break into peels of laughter for no reason. “I felt awkward,” says Swamy. But I gradually grew out of my inhibitions. Watching 50 people bend backwards and laugh heartily is very infectious, he adds.

B.K. Satyanarayana feels laughter is a much-needed medicine in a world that is turning into a dreadful place to live in. Unhappy news and negative thoughts abound today. We are trying to break the seriousness of life and alleviate stress through laughter clubs, he says. Satyanarayana calls laughter the easiest form of meditation.

The physical benefits of laughter are an added plus-point. More than 70 per cent of all illness has some relation to stress. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, insomnia, migraine, anxiety, allergies and peptic ulcers, says Kataria.

Researchers have found that laughing increases the count of antibodies present in the mucous membranes of the nose and respiratory passages. This means that people who laugh a lot catch fewer colds and chest and throat infections. Also, a laugh a day strengthens the human body’s immune system by increasing the count of natural killer lymphocytes, a type of white cell and raising the level of antibodies, he adds.

Laughter is also an effective pain killer, claims Kataria, adding, “Laughing increases the level of endorphins which is a natural pain killer. So it reduces the pain from migraine, spondilitis and arthritis.

There is good news for those who want to look good. Laughter tones up facial muscles and increases blood supply to the face and thus gives it a glow. Laughing can make you look younger, claims Kataria, adding, “But the biggest benefit of laughing is the bonhomie it creates among people. If people laugh together, they bond better and shed ill will.

Clearly, laughter therapy is no laughing matter
.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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